Hybrid car batteries have proved to be long-lasting, but they don’t last forever. And when hybrid batteries fail, car owners can be in for a shock. If the battery is no longer under warranty, it likely will cost well into four figures to have a replacement installed. For the popular Toyota Prius, it is something in the neighborhood of $3,000—but with most other hybrids, the price is likely to be upward of $4,000 and, in some cases, close to $10,000.
Fortunately, you might not need to pay that much. First, confirm that the hybrid battery—not the far-less-expensive 12-volt battery—truly is the problem. AAA or an independent garage should be able to test your 12-volt battery. If the 12-volt battery is not the problem, have the vehicle towed to a garage that specializes in hybrids for a second opinion. There is a chance that an inexpensive fix to the battery pack is all that’s needed, but this is something the average auto mechanic might not know how to do. Dealership mechanics might recommend replacing an entire unit—the easiest but most expensive option—even when a cheaper solution might be available.
If you can’t find a garage in your area that specializes in hybrids, look for a shop advertising expertise with the Toyota Prius. The Prius is by far the most common hybrid car, and shops that work on it often can solve battery problems with other hybrids as well.
If the battery must be replaced, one option is to buy a used pack pulled from a vehicle that has been totaled. This could cost anywhere from about $400 to $2,000 or more. A mechanic who specializes in hybrids might know where to acquire a used pack, or a local salvage yard could have one. If not, enter the make and model of your vehicle and the phrase “battery pack” into eBay—battery packs often sell for $500 to $1,500 on that auction website. Labor costs to have the battery installed are likely to add at least a few hundred dollars.
If you’re buying a used battery, get proof of the car’s year and mileage. It is wise to look for a battery that is less than eight years old with fewer than 100,000 miles. Warning: Never repair or replace a hybrid vehicle’s battery pack on your own. These high-voltage systems are potentially lethal.